Recently I’ve posted many a piece about Gender Based Violence and about the perils that face modern day women in societies across the world. In my line of work, I see many cases of domestic and gender based violence in the most extreme and humiliating of ways. What I haven’t written about, and I think it is about time for, is what women in my native Sri Lanka face every day; and not in some far off rural parts of the country; but in the so called ‘developed and civilised’ capital city of Colombo.
For as long as I can remember I have always been told of the necessity to ‘dress conservatively’ so as not to attract unwanted attention from men and for a long time, I abided by this warning without giving it a second thought. But the recent incident in Wariyapola really made me reassess my own thinking on the subject matter. The story goes that a man who was catcalling and sexually harassing a young woman through verbal jibes and taunts received a response that no one would have expected. Now, I’ve read through a lot of the comments on the Youtube Page and was shocked and outraged at the level of misogynistic and disgusting discourse that seems to be echoed within my country. The young man in question was said to have stated that the form of clothing which the young woman was wearing was somehow ‘inappropriate’ and this somehow allowed the harassment that came afterwards. My questions is: inappropriate to whom? And who on earth does this guy think he is public lecturing a complete stranger anyway?! Are there laws in Sri Lanka that dictate that women cannot wear clothing with shoulder cut outs… WOW…. The extremely racy and evocative method of showing some of ones shoulders. Seriously???!
I recall an incident myself was I was 19 years old, I had just walked out of the front gate and onto the main road of my Aunt’s house in Dehiwala. I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a hat and had taken the one step needed to get into the awaiting car of another family member when a 3 wheeler whizzed passed, the driver of which catcalled and then stared for such a long period of time that he drove straight into the back of another vehicle causing a pile up. Somewhat comical at the time yes, but on further reflection, just another incidence of a Sri Lankan woman minding her own business only to be verbally tormented by a passer-by.
Anyone who reads this, or views the video of the now infamous ‘Wariyapola Girl’ and claims that she was asking for it because of what she was wearing; or that her behaviour was highly ‘unfeminine’ and therefore worse than the ‘poor man’ who ‘merely pointed out the facts’; well these people really need to take a good hard look at themselves and question their own thinking. Women in our country are not the possession of its men, we are not to be objectified and taunted. No one has the right to afflict the moral claim of authority on anyone else and especially in the case of attempting to publicly shame due to some messed up patriarchal, outdated chauvinism that belongs back in the dark ages.